City ending several leases

Published 11:28 pm Saturday, August 1, 2009

Suffolk’s effort to save money by moving departments from leased spaces to city-owned property is starting to pay off this year.

Suffolk City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn last month told city council members she had initiated termination of several city leases. The effort to move employees into city-owned space began about two years ago.

“We actually have quite a bit of leased space,” Anne Seward, the city’s budget officer, said, noting there was a time when the city was paying as much as $1.6 million per year for leased property.

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“We just recognized if we could transfer some of that space into city-owned property, it would be a benefit to the taxpayers,” Seward said. “We evaluated the price of doing business and how efficient some of our lease arrangements were.”

Among the leases recently terminated by the city are a police department building on North Street, which ends Sept. 30, and an office at 157 N. Main St., occupied by portions of the public works and planning departments. That lease could be continued on a month-to-month basis as the city relocates the office.

In addition, the city has begun the process of relocating the voter registrar’s office, which also is in leased space. City planners hope to move it to the current police department headquarters, which is moving to its new facility across the street. However, the U.S. Department of Justice must review the proposed relocation to ensure fairness to all potential voters — a process that will take several more months.

The lease of that space was to have terminated Friday, but Cuffee-Glenn requested a month-to-month continuance while the review process continues.

This strategy, in addition to saving money, will afford the city greater control of its space and eliminate the possibility of disputes between the city and building owners, Cuffee-Glenn noted in the letter.

Seward estimated the recent lease terminations would result in an annual savings of about $159,000.